Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych slammed opposition calls for revolution as a "threat to national security" on Tuesday as he met his predecessors in a bid to defuse an escalating standoff over a rejected EU pact.
Several demonstrators were injured in fresh clashes with police early Tuesday as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and a top US diplomat arrived in Kyiv for talks in a sign of the global concern about the explosive situation.
Convening ex-leaders Leonid Kuchma, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko at an unprecedented meeting at the presidential administration, Yanukovych also said a delegation would likely be flying to Brussels to renew negotiations on key political and free trade agreements on Wednesday.
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"Calls for a revolution pose a threat to national security," Yanukovych said in comments broadcast on national television. "I want that this dark page is turned and is never allowed to happen again."
Yanukovych's decision to scrap key trade and political agreements with the EU under pressure from Russia and police violence against protesters have plunged the ex-Soviet country into its most acute political crisis since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004.
About 2,000 anti-government protesters huddled by braziers in their main tented camp in snowbound Kyiv on Tuesday, in defiance of riot police who herded them away from government buildings overnight.
Dozens of riot police removed barricades leading to the presidency, cabinet offices and parliament. Protesters regrouped at Independence Square in central Kyiv, where they have set up a makeshift tent village, complete with a stage where singers and speakers provide 24-hour entertainment.
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This moment shows protesters singing the national anthem, led by 2004 Eurovision winner Ruslana:
The president's standard, a blue flag with a gold trident in the centre, flew outside his office, signaling Viktor Yanukovych was at work — possibly the first time since protests erupted on November 21 over his decision to scrap a trade pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Demonstrators had feared the arrival of the riot police on Monday heralded a plan to crush the protests, but there was none of the violence seen last week, when dozens of protesters were wounded.
Ilya Shutov, an ex-miner from the eastern city of Donetsk, said the protesters would stay until Yanukovych left office.
"We were for the EU association agreement because we thought it would force our authorities to be civilized. Their refusal of Europe is a refusal to be civilized," he said.
"Our goal is to get rid of the Soviet-like authorities."
Visiting Moscow, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland made a new appeal for calm in Kyiv.
She "expressed US deep concern about the situation in Ukraine, and urged Russia to use its influence to press for peace, human dignity and a political solution", the US embassy in Moscow said in a statement.
"The US supports Ukraine's European choice, a non-violent and just political resolution to the current standoff, and a return to economic health with the support of the International Monetary Fund," it said.